Amanda Holden "I remember"

Violet Wilder

Presenter, singer, actress of stage and screen, model, Britain’s Got Talent judge and Heart Radio host– is there any medium Amanda Holden, 48, can’t master? She reflects on her life and career…

I grew up in quite a rural part of hampshire but became so influenced by music, drama and entertainment. I was a proper child of the late Seventies and Eighties—ABBA, Showaddywaddy and, a bit later, Madonna. Essentially, if it was in the charts, it was playing in the house. On top of that I also loved opera and musicals—The Sound of Music was a firm favourite. Overall though, if I had to pick one artist from my childhood it would be Barry Manilow! A few years ago I got to interview him when I covered for Holly Willoughby on This Morning and, well, he’s iconic for me. I think at first he thought I was taking the mickey out of him but then he quickly realised that I’m actually a bit of a stalker-fan!

 

We never minded the fact we didn't have much when we were growing up because we didn’t really compare what we had to others. I think these days, with the internet, especially, there is such a disconnect between those who have a lot and those who don’t. It wasn’t like that when I was young—you focused on your own little circle and you all had the same bikes, beauty sets, toys. Those who had lots of stuff were usually just the kids you saw on the telly, and almost always in the US. Britain was a place where everyone seemed to have the same sort of upbringing. I don’t think that’s totally untrue today, despite what people say.

 

My Dad left when we were young but I never felt as though we suffered. I would hear my mum crying at night, but that was the only glimpse she ever gave that something was wrong. In every other way we got on with it, we never felt affected, and life was “normal”.

 

Our kitchen cupboards never had biscuits in them! Mum didn’t approve of snacks or crisps or any of that stuff, so we all grew up rather healthily. At the time I was in awe of the treats my mates had in their lunch boxes because my mum didn’t sign up for that stuff, but looking back I’m glad of that now.

 

"Meat is murder"... so the track by The Smiths goes. The Manchester four-piece were so original, talented and wonderfully moody, even though the indie scene was a world away from the sort of music I had been listening to beforehand. Lead singer Morrissey was actually a big influence on me in my teenage years.

The vegetarian movement was really growing and we would sport badges bemoaning the slaughter of animals. I’d never really eaten meat and I’ve never been tempted since. I think it’s brilliant that it’s so accepted these days.

At home now I end up cooking maybe three or four different food types because I’m a vegetarian and so is one of my daughters—the other one isn’t and my husband Chris likes meat. So I’ll make meat, pasta or fish. Chris complains about my cooking, but I say: “Excuse me, I’ve put four dishes on the table and you’ve got starters, what more do you want?!”

 

The most exciting time of my life was when I moved to London and started attending Mountview Theatre School in Wood Green. I’d get the bus there each day from Primrose Hill, where I lived with my fiancé in a really pokey basement flat.

It was very exciting to be in this place where there was so much going on… so much wealth and fame and a 24-hour buzz of activity. More than that though, it was the sense of potential and expectation that really made living in the capital so exciting. We felt we could conquer anything and achieve everything.

 

At the age of 19 I appeared on Blind Date. I’d seen an audition poster and, being dramatic and quite loud, I went along for a laugh. I was actually down as a reserve, but someone was forced to pull out, which left me centre-stage, so to speak. I was actually engaged at the time, but it was all done for a laugh and the producers knew I wasn’t single. It was a great experience and it still gets brought up a lot. I’m both embarrassed about it and extremely proud!

Amanda Holden on Blind Date

 

 

Getting a brilliant casting agent helped me so much. The man in question was Patrick Hambleton of Jane Lehrer Associates. He said he liked the fact I was loud, a bit inappropriate and not afraid to speak my mind.

People have always taken that as a way of standing out from the crowd and being bolshie, but I’m actually quiet and shy inside, and for years my way of combatting that was to be the exact opposite.

Amanda holden Shaftesbury theatre

 

When I first started dating Les Dennis I decided to stop getting upset about the way I looked. We had both been through a lot and met at a time that was perfect for both of us. I think that contributed to this feeling I had where I decided it was pointless worrying what other people thought, and that was a moral I took into other aspects of my career, such as when reading reviews of stage performances I’d done. Nowadays, my looks are the thing that upset me the least.

Amanda holden wedding les dennis

When you’re on television, everyone thinks you must care about it, but I really don’t. It’s more if there’s something going on with the children or if a particular person has disappointed me—that’s what tends to gets me upset. I just do my “breath of fire” and lots of other breathing exercises that I’ve learned from yoga.

 

I've always taken a relatively simplistic view of health and fitness, and that’s been important, because I just wasn’t prepared for the scrutiny that comes with being in the spotlight, and the extent to which people feel they can comment on how you look.

It annoys me, if I’m honest, to read about other celebrities saying, “my nan is very slim, my sister is very slim and my mum is slim so I think it’s a genetic thing”. I am a healthy eater by default because I’m a vegetarian. I don’t ever have half fat anything because I don’t believe in that. I love wine. I think what I do is, if I indulge on one day, then I make sure I’m very healthy the next day.

 

Getting the call to do Britain's Got Talent was momentous for me. Simon Cowell and I met for dinner and since he has always joked that I drank too much and he had to call me a cab home. I think it was the other way round. What first struck me about Simon is the fact it’s so easy to be in his company. Sure, he’s an industry heavyweight, but he has a wicked sense of humour and I admire the confidence he carries about him.

Amanda holden Britain's got talent

 

The thing I love about the show is it reminds me of when I started out and what my aspirations were; the countless auditions I’ve been to where I was told “no.”

 

Simon Cowell has been one of the most inspirational peope in my career. He’s like a bumble bee—he’s literally got about seven sets of eyes. Simon knows absolutely everything that’s going on, everywhere, at all times.

And he never forgets anything either, even ten years after the event, so you really need to watch what you say!

 

My greatest achievement in life is undoubtedly my family. My husband Chris, and my daughters Lexi and Hollie, are the people who make everything I do worthwhile, every single day.

 

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